This is a blog from the Superintendent of Schools for the Deerfield, Illinois Public Schools, District 109 Our mission is: Provide an innovative educational experiences of the highest quality that engage, inspire and empower each student to excel and contribute in a changing world.
Facebook for the district as well as the six schools is also still a highly used communication medium.
Of late we have been expanding our communications via interview (blog radio interviews), and we are also starting a DPS109 Podcast (which you can subscribe to on the iTunes store). We’ll share more about the Podcast in subsequent blog posts; for now we are going to issue a podcast episode at least once a month, and more frequently when district news warrants it.
With this blog post I’m sharing one of these new forms of communication, an interview with one of the District 109 parent leaders, Mrs. Patty O’Machel. Patty has taken the lead on Disability Awareness Week planning and facilitation. This pro-social series of lessons and experiences help remove the fear that some people have when encountering people with differences. Patty is a leader that you should learn more about!
Patty and I were recently interviewed with Larry Jacobs … listen below:
Blog Talk Radio Interview with Larry Jacobs on the EDUCATION IN AMERICA: FOR PARENTS AND COMMUNITY radio show.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius
From time to time people ask why I strongly and frequently advocate for the leader’s use of social media so often. Others inquire as to why I share so much about my district and professional views publicly on Twitter, via this blog, and in other communication media. Still others ask how does this use of social media tools improve learning for students and staff.
For the first blog post of 2017 I decided to concentrate on the “why” – the why I blog; this year I plan to write about the why I lead, the why I advocate for all children, the why I do what I do and I believe what I do.
Communication is an evolving process reflective of the needs of the community, and as such, this blog and the district’s methods of communication – pushing and pulling – speaking and listening – are likely going to change and evolve as a result of needs and actions of the district and the superintendent’s office. I welcome and encourage your comments and input!I am grateful to be a part of the educational system and the community! I am grateful to work with an outstanding group of educators, community members, parents, students, etc. I am grateful to learn and grow and support the learning and growth of others as the chief educational leader in the community!
Continuing on the subject of why I blog I consider other social media tools that support my growth as a leader. First I look to blogging and next I look to #suptchat, the international monthly Twitter chat I co-facilitate with Nick Polyak. From #suptchat I learn many leadership tips and ideas and I gain access to resources from a large PLN (personal learning network).
In addition, from other social media sources and through personal professional relationships, I continue to learn so much from contemporary leaders, like Chris Kennedy in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Joe Sanfelippo in Fall Creek, WI (#gocrickets), Jeff Zoul right here in Deerfield, and so many other leaders and educators featured in and through AASA, NASSP, NAESP, and many other professional communications.
In addition, the social media connections and relationships are enhanced and humanized through conferences and workshops and from books and literature. I find great value in reading currently published and recently published books from members of my PLN (Sanfelippo, Zoul, Gustafson, Creasman, Burgess, and so many more!)
One of the ways I learn evidence based ways to support leaders in my organization is through reflection, review, study, connection, and learning from others through various connection modes. One of the ways I share reflection is through blogging!
Let’s begin with some definitions. A bit dry, we realize, but this is a necessary evil. First we’ll define the word this whole site is based around – blog.
A blog is a frequently updated online personal journal or diary. It is a place to express yourself to the world. A place to share your thoughts and your passions. Really, it’s anything you want it to be. For our purposes we’ll say that a blog is your own website that you are going to update on an ongoing basis. Blog is a short form for the word weblog and the two words are used interchangeably.
With this first 2017 blog post I’m also sharing my thoughts on what constitutes effective blogging from an article published this month in the January 2017 edition of the AASA Magazine.
What Constitutes Effective Blogging? By Michael Lubelfeld/School Administrator, January 2017
A superintendent plays many roles and wears many hats — chief educational officer, chief spokesperson and chief communicator to name a few essential and high-profile roles.
Social media as a communication medium has proven to be an effective tool for school leaders. In particular, blogging is an effective mode of communication, and something I have been doing since 2010 when I first became a superintendent in suburban Chicago.
Like other forms of social media, blogging allows for a blending or integration of professional and personal messaging. The district website and official e-mail systems are 100 percent work-related and represent the official statements and positions of the school district. A blog allows for the representation of the district while enabling the superintendent to be a person, a professional with human emotions and interests who can share using her or his own voice.
An effective superintendent blog is updated at least monthly. Blog posts should have links, photos and videos relating to the topic being discussed while showcasing learning and leading. Photos and videos showing the schools and communities tend to have a greater viewing impact than generic, nonrelated imagery.
The blog itself should be visually attractive and easy to locate and read with an ease for sharing comments. I follow several blogs because I find the communication timely, relevant and valuable, and I aim to improve my own craft as a blogger by learning from others. The blog should have compelling and well-written content that is fitting for the local audience as well as the profession. It should be a blend and balance of personal reflection and values while serving as a communication arm of the district.
Since the start of the school year, I’ve used my blog to comment critically on the failure of our state to adequately finance public schooling and to reach back to my 8th-grade teaching days to share a homemade vehicle for improving teacher-parent communication in the pre-electronic mail era.
I reflected in another recent post on a life-changing experience participating in a Lifetouch Memory Mission to the Dominican Republic. Several of my narratives attracted comments of followers.
Two superintendent blogs I follow and recommend are the Culture of Yes (https://cultureofyes.ca) by Chris Kennedy, superintendent in West Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Superintendent’s Corner (https://superintendent.hcpss.org) by Renee Foose, superintendent of the Howard County, Md., schools.
In the Culture of Yes, the reader will find timely and appealing posts relating to education, leadership and highlights of the West Vancouver district. I enjoy the 500- to 1,000-word posts that are easy to read, force me to think and allow me to apply concepts to my own practices as a leader. Foose’s blog is visually unique in that the posts appear as
blocks on a page with images. This distinctive look allows the reader to consider the intended message before reading the posts. Foose generally writes shorter posts than Kennedy and hers typically offer photos or other media capturing students and community.
A Public Journal
I blog out of a desire to share, from a balcony perspective when appropriate, and from the “dance floor” when apropos for describing what is happening in the 3,000-student system I lead. I believe it is useful for the superintendent to share publicly his or her in-depth educational philosophies. Reflection is a valuable skill for all, and blogging serves as a public journal for public reflection.
My social media use enables me to share deeper connections. Because social media drops barriers and boundaries, I am able to learn and grow and communicate with leaders all over the world. In addition, the stories of my schools are shared widely thanks to the ease with which one can connect using social media. My blog shows how professional learning of the superintendent relates to best practices in school leadership, instruction and innovation. The blog is another tool for communication in the modern school leader’s bag of tricks.
One of the main messages about our innovative future focus is that at the heart of all of our purpose is, has been, and will remain STUDENT LEARNING! We are fortunate to have an abundance of high quality devices and resources and it’s important to keep the human factor in content curation and it’s essential to keep the teacher-student relationship at the heart of our work!
Much has been written about districts and schools “going 1:1,” issuing tablets, computers, or other electronic devices to every student. As the quantity of devices in the hands of students grows, many leaders like me believe these changes cannot succeed without supporting transformative change in student learning experiences. Namely, I’d like to see a focus on content first, tech second. It is far more important to enhance learning via high quality content and instructional transformation than it is to simply replace a pencil with a tablet and hope for the best.
There are numerous recent blog posts in the wake of #pencilchat on Twitter, where educators and others discussed the popular “pencil analogy” regarding technology in the classroom. The points made (no pun intended) in this discussion are varied, but an important theme emerged that I feel warrants attention: simply putting a pencil in a child’s hand won’t make them a great writer. However, if you give a student a pencil coupled with powerful, meaningful content and exceptional instruction from an energized and committed educator—a great writer may just emerge. When that occurs, is it the pencil or the content that deserves the credit?
As Andrew Marcinek writes in his book, The 1:1 Roadmap Setting the Course for Innovation in Education: “Technology is more than just ‘Computer Class;’ it is a literacy that must be threaded throughout the fabric of a school. In a 1:1 environment, you’re preparing students to be responsible citizens of the physical and digital worlds. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed with devices; you have to have a plan for technology that keeps learning at center stage.”
Marcinek’s point regarding keeping the focus on learning cannot be lost in the rush to embrace ed tech as a panacea. Though I am a strong advocate for instructional change as the catalyst for a substantive change in student outcomes, content is as important as instruction in the classroom. Content is curriculum, content is resources that support curriculum, content is the “what” being taught in our classrooms.
In the recent era of No Child Left Behind, accountability has been “king.” Many who advocate for the Common Core State Standards or other Learning Standards believe content is “king.” I believe that transformative instruction combined with exceptional content is “king.”
In the 1:1 Transformative Learning Environment era, it is incumbent upon leaders to insist on a new instructional focus. One that is student-centered with supportive, rich, and dynamic content. We must also be certain we are teaching actual digital content, rather than merely digitized content. Simply taking a standard textbook and making it available as a PDF is not digital content—it will not transform our schools or help students achieve.
True digital content is accessible on the myriad device options in classrooms and supports progressive instructional practices that focus on the student as the driver. Digital content changes, updates, and links to real people and current events as they are happening. Textbooks are decades old in many places, making content outdated and stale. Tech books and truly digital content is updated, revised, refreshed, and real. This allows for and supports a concept of content rich and instructionally fresh approaches to learning.
These devices are often revolutionary. But a device does not magically create innovation, nor does a device magically increase student engagement. What we need are devices deployed in an environment rich with dynamic content and full of engaging instruction. Only then will we produce outstanding results. I see it every day and my aim is to support every classroom’s transformation into an engaging, motivating, challenging learning space for our nation’s most precious assets – our children!
About Mike Lubelfeld (on the Discovery Blog site)
Mike is a public school superintendent who believes in the writings and messages of Michael Fullan, Thomas Sergiovanni, John Maxwell, and others in the field of leadership. They give clear guidance in areas of leadership like culture building, relationship building, servant leadership and effective change agency. Mike finds great value in both the boardroom and in the classroom as all decisions for his superintendency are based upon what’s best for students. Conscious of the impact on staff as well, his aim is to cause enough disruption as needed to move the “organization’s needle to the right” on its transition and transformation into becoming a highly disciplined school system whose focus is on excellence at all levels. The motto Engage, Inspire, Empower is alive and well in this superintendent.